Special Olympics BC athlete Katharine Giannisis and Joanna Dolezal, a member of Whitecaps FC Girls Elite U-18 team, are set to take part in the 2019 Special Olympics Unified Sports match. The All-Star soccer match will take place today, July 31 at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, home of Atlanta United.
The Unified Sports match, which kicks off at 3 p.m. PT, will be streamed live via MLS YouTube.
For the fifth year in a row, MLS WORKS and ESPN will host 42 delegates as part of the Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Experience. The Unified Sports All-Star soccer teams are comprised of players with and without intellectual disabilities and will play an 11 vs 11 match consisting of two 30-minute halves, outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by Adidas. The teams will take the pitch in an East vs. West matchup prior to the fifth annual MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer®.
Giannisis is a recent high-school graduate who will be starting her college journey this coming fall. It’s her first year playing soccer and participating at Special Olympics. Giannisis likes keeping herself busy, whether she is riding her mountain bike or playing video games, she’s always finding ways to keep active. Playing soccer and participating in the special Olympics has given her not only new opportunities but has allowed her to make new friends and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Also participating in today’s match is Tarleen Tiwana, who is a 21-year-old full time student at University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Tiwana is passionate about the beautiful game and has volunteered with the Special Olympics soccer team for two years and will be accompanying Giannisis as a coach/chaperone.
The match will showcase the Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange program, the cornerstone of the ongoing collaboration between MLS, ESPN, and Special Olympics North America. Through the Unified Sports Soccer Exchange program, Unified teams from MLS cities travel to other MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches with their Special Olympics counterparts. Unified matches are scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches, providing MLS fans with an opportunity to witness first-hand the talents and abilities of Special Olympics athletes.